Nearly 35 years ago, the remains of a young woman were found on the Publicker Distiller property in an underground pump house. Today, thanks to the use of forensic genealogy and investigative work, Lisa Todd, who was 17-years old and six months pregnant, has been identified. The identity of the “Publicker girl”, as she was known, remained an open investigation for Bensalem as their oldest unidentified persons case since 1988 when a passerby found the partially clothed skeletal remains.
Over the years, investigators have attempted to identify “Publicker Girl” without success. In 1994, a forensic facial reconstruction sculpture was developed. In 2007, traditional forensic STR testing was used to build a DNA profile that was submitted to CODIS. No matches were found. Additional efforts were made to generate leads, including a 2014 CT scan of the skeletal remains to create an updated 3D forensic facial reconstruction.
In 2020, Bensalem PD partnered with Bode Technology to explore advanced DNA testing methods. Bode Technology had to leverage propriety DNA extraction methods to work with the highly degraded skeletal evidence. The DNA extract developed at Bode Technology was then sent to Othram Inc. for further analysis. Othram used human enrichment paired with Forensic-Grade Genomic Sequencing® to produce a genealogical profile. While the DNA evidence was severely degraded due to the age of the case and the condition in which the remains were found, the Bode-Othram partnership produced a genealogical profile that enabled genealogy search. Genealogical research performed by Bensalem PD produced the leads necessary to confirm Lisa Todd’s identity.
While her identity has now been restored, the circumstances surrounding Lisa Todd’s death have been ruled suspicious and investigators are now working to determine how she died and who might be responsible for her death. Anyone with information is urged to call the Bensalem Township Police Department, Detective Chris McMullin at 215-633-3719.